Local Science Educator Completes Innovative Seed to STEM Program

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Rebecca Burnfin, a science teacher at Bernadine Sitts Intermediate Center, recently completed the Seed to STEM workshop sponsored by the Kansas Corn Commission. The Seed to STEM workshop provided 18 middle school science teachers with classroom lessons and lab exercises to teach about corn, biotechnology and ethanol. Each teacher also received a kit with science lab materials and equipment valued at $500 to use in their classrooms. 

“There is truly an amazing amount of science and technology in corn farming today. In the past four years, we’ve been able to reach about 240 Kansas science teachers. The level of energy and commitment from these teachers is amazing. Through this program, we are energizing science teachers and their students about the role science plays in agriculture,” according to Kansas Corn’s Director of Education Sharon Thielen. “We think the connection between agriculture and science can spark new interest and understanding with teachers and their students.”

The Kansas Corn Commission Seed to STEM workshop was held on the K-State Olathe campus. In the course of the two-day workshop, participants learned classroom and lab lessons on topics that included DNA decoding; micropipetting, corn fermentation; genetic modification, nutrient testing, distillation and more.

In addition to learning about biotechnology and ethanol in the classroom and in the lab, the Seed to STEM teachers received first-hand experience by visiting the American Royal and an ethanol plant. In partnership with the American Royal, teachers received a tour of the facility, watched a horse show and visited with corn producers during dinner. On day two they visited East Kansas Agri Energy ethanol plant at Garnett to learn the role science plays in creating a renewable fuel from corn.